WBBL 2023-24 – Jess Jonassen ‘deflated’ but determined after Australia axing

Jess Jonassen admits she was left “pretty deflated” after being dropped during the recent T20I series against West Indies and revealed she is going back to basics ahead of the WBBL with an eye on playing a big part in the upcoming tour of India.

Jonassen was left out of Australia’s side for the third T20I in Sydney and the subsequent ODI series after copping the brunt of the Hayley Matthews onslaught in the first two matches at North Sydney Oval. She bowled just two overs in each match and conceded 54 runs in total, including eight boundaries and two sixes, all struck by Matthews.

In game two, bowling the 19th over with West Indies needing 25 runs off 12 balls, she gave up four consecutive boundaries before finally dismissing Matthews. But the damage was done and Jonassen knew her fate.

“I was pretty deflated,” Jonassen told ESPNcricinfo. “Obviously, it’s never nice to be on the receiving end of a batting masterclass like that. And then obviously finding myself out of the team was pretty challenging as well.

“It’s really cut-throat at the moment. If your execution is slightly off, where the women’s game is at the moment, you’re going to get found out. And with where Hayley was at you didn’t have to miss by much and you were sailing over the rope.

“The fact that we couldn’t get her out as a bowling unit, something had to change.”

That something meant that Jonassen was left to carry the drinks for the remainder of the series. It is a rare position for Jonassen to find herself in as she has been the fulcrum of the Australian attack for nearly a decade. She is unequivocally Australia’s greatest-ever T20 spinner, having been a key bowler in four T20 World Cup triumphs as well as the Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning team and the ODI World Cup victory last year.

The only title she has missed in Australia’s golden generation was the 2018 T20 World Cup, where an untimely knee injury kept her out of the side in the lead-up and the form of her young replacements, Sophie Molineux and Georgia Wareham, meant she could not win her place back.

Aside from the 2022 ODI World Cup, where she was left out for one game for match-up reasons, she has been an automatic on Australia’s team sheet. But her form forced the hands of coach Shelley Nitschke and head selector Shawn Flegler and forced some tough conversations.

“The conversations I was able to have with both Shell and Flegs, I was able to be really honest, and really frank with them, and likewise them to me,” Jonassen said. “It’s never nice when you’re on the receiving end of it as a player but equally it still keeps you hungry, and you’ve still got to keep trying to find ways to improve.

“One of our mantras as an Australian team is to keep evolving. Even though I’m one of the senior players there’s still ways that I can improve and whether that’s tactically, physically or mentally.”

“The conversations with [the selectors were] that I’m a really crucial member of the side and there’s the opportunity to play a really big role over [in India] … It gives me confidence knowing that just because I missed some games in this series doesn’t mean that things are over or I’m on the outer.”

Jess Jonassen on her axing and the upcoming tour of India

Aged 30, after more than a decade in international cricket, Jonassen has found herself going back to basics to improve her skill execution under pressure.

“Often you can get caught up, particularly as the spin bowler, in just becoming a bowling machine in the nets and you focus too much on what the batter is doing as opposed to what you need to do or what you need to execute,” Jonassen said.

“For me, even in the recent series, I just did some simple target bowling. I just put a box of cones down and just had to try and hit that and then I put four or five separate little cones which replicated certain deliveries that I wanted to execute and it was taking the technique side out of it and just being like, okay, just find a way to hit spot. Basically, keeping it that simple.

“Ultimately, if you go the journey after executing the ball that you want it to bowl, you can live with that more so than a really big mis-execution. It’s the balance between that as well as genuine competitive bat versus ball in the nets.

“I think for me that stripping it back stuff is really vital, making sure that I really balance that and include that in my preparation. So when I come to games I know I’m 100% confident that I can hit that spot.”

Jonassen’s confident she can hit the spot in the WBBL again as she leads a high-quality Brisbane Heat outfit that is looking to claim their second title having been a genuine threat in the last three seasons without making it to the final.

Despite having a lot of experience in her group, including international legspinners Sarah Glenn (first five games) and Amelia Kerr (last nine games plus finals), Jonassen knows she has a vital role to play with the ball and an opportunity to prepare herself for the upcoming tour of India.

“The conversations with [the selectors were] that I’m a really crucial member of the side and there’s the opportunity to play a really big role over there,” Jonassen said. “There were also conversations around what sort of role am I going to play within the WBBL to be able to, I guess, help facilitate things over there in the sense of whether it’s powerplay bowling, and what types of deliveries to continue to work on at different phases of the game.

“It gives me confidence knowing that just because I missed some games in this series doesn’t mean that things are over or I’m on the outer.

“It just came down to execution and it’s something that I can control. Like I said, I’d be more than happy to be going for runs if it’s off my best deliveries all the time. There are quality players around the world. They’re allowed to play good shots as well.

“My goal is always to get back to what I’ve built my entire career on, building pressure and bowling in partnerships. I’m not the go-for-glory type bowler coming on to be a genuine wicket-taker. I do take wickets but I get them through building pressure and bowling in partnerships.

“It’s just going back to that and figuring out my method of what I need to do before I get onto the field to be able to make that happen.”

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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